EDMONTON - It is not in Tom Renney’s nature to criticize his players publicly.
In fact, during his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, Renney has often gone out of his way to protect his players and defend them when things get ugly.
So it was a surprise when the Oilers head coach lambasted his team following a lackluster 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Monday.
It was either a sign of a coach finally losing patience with his club, or of a coach who felt he needed a new method to get his message across.
“He pretty much said the same thing to us in the locker room,” said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff. “It really wasn’t anything new for me, when I was reading the comments. He’s frustrated, he felt like our body language was going a little south and there was a little too much fighting and bickering. We have to be better.”
Renney appears to be at his wit’s end trying to get what he can out of the Oilers this season.
Having long ago lost any hope of reaching the playoffs, Renney and his coaching staff have had to find creative ways to motivate the team down the stretch.
It’s like trying to squeeze water from a stone some nights.
“I think he just kind of had the end of it,” said Oilers winger Ryan Jones. “He’s such a quiet and positive guy, but he can only take so much.
“I think (Monday) you started seeing a little bit of what he wanted to say, said. The message was taken. When you have a coach that doesn’t say stuff like that very often, when he says it, you pay attention really quick.”
Renney boiled over during his post-game press conference Monday. He criticized his team for their lack of effort and apparent unwillingness to try and win games.
“It doesn’t take many for the wrong approach, the wrong attitude, the wrong give a s- -t to make its way through the dressing room,” Renney said Monday. “It doesn’t take many guys at all. We have a few people who have to look in the mirror here because this is unacceptable.
“You’re the Edmonton Oilers, you’re a millionaire, you have the opportunity to play the game … Suck it up and play hockey.”
Heading into Monday’s game, the Oilers were saying all the right things. They were talking about having to play with pride and for the crest in the front of the jersey and not the name on the back, and whatever other cliché they could come up with.
Yet they came up with another poor effort at home, where they’ve lost five straight and eight of their last nine.
That set off the head coach, who tore into the team in the dressing room after the game, before piling on to the media.
“It’s part of the process. It’s not going to be pretty every night and it’s not going to go your way every night,” Renney said Tuesday. “As a coach and as a coaching staff you try to impart the right principals and the right way you have to play and they’re be departures from that. (Monday) was certainly an opportunity to address things that we have to do in order to improve and we have to improve as a team, it’s that simple.
“It may be out of character for me to display that often. But I don’t think it’s out character for me to make it clear to my players, even through you people (media) what needs to be done by them.”
Whether the message was received won’t be known until Wednesday, when the Oilers play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the only team lower in the NHL standings.
The Blue Jackets have had issues of their own this season and are expected to clean house this summer, starting by moving captain Rick Nash.
If the Oilers come up with a poor effort again Wednesday against the worst team in the league, many expect there’ll be some house cleaning done in Edmonton as well.
“I think we should all be a little bit embarrassed,” said Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney. “Tom made good points. You can’t just try and finish out a season and not play hard.
“(Monday) night is the closest we’re going to get to play something like a playoff game, so we have to really treat them as such.”